Delta Judiciary Debunk Alleged Bias Against Sapele Custodial Inmates

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Correctional Centre, Sapele.

ASABA/Nigeria: The Delta State Judiciary has refuted an allegation of bias against the Sapele Custodial Centre of the Nigerian Correctional Service when the Chief Judge of Delta State, Honourable Justice Marshal Umukoro embarked on visit to the five Custodial Centres to release convicted inmates on the directive of the Federal Government.

This was sequel to an online report captioned “Why Inmates at Sapele Prison Protested, Set Offices on Fire” dated 27th April, 2020 and published by Nigeria Today Online.

The online report stated that inmates of the Sapele Correctional Centre alleged that they intentionally set the centre ablaze to protest against the Chief Judge’s bias against serving prisoners (convicts) in the facility during his visit there on Thursday 23rd April, 2020 pursuant to presidential directives.

A statement from the Office of the Chief Registrar, High Court of Justice, Asaba, asserted that while the Chief Judge was not interested in joining issues with anyone on allegation of bias, he considered it a public and moral duty to keep members of the public correctly informed about the matter and protect them from reckless misinformation.

The statement disclosed that the visit of the chief judge to the Correctional Centre, Sapele, was pursuant to presidential directives as contained in the letter of the Honourable Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, SAN, with reference number HAGF/STATES/DCC/1/20 dated 8th April, 2020, addressed to His Excellency the Governor of Delta State.

The letter, according to the statement, requested chief judges of various states of the federation to urgently embark on a visit to all correctional/custodial centres within their respective jurisdictions to identify and release inmates deserving of amnesty.

It reads: “The Presidential Directives were accompanied by a Comprehensive List of all the inmates in the five Correctional Centres in Delta State (including Sapele Correctional Centre) considered eligible for amnesty and possible release by the State Chief Judge during his decongestion visit to the respective centres.

“With respect to the Correctional Centre in Sapele, although the names of eleven (11) inmates had originally been sent to the Presidency by the authorities of the Correctional Service in Sapele for the grant of amnesty, only three of these eleven inmates were eventually approved by the Presidency to be granted amnesty, hence only these inmates were released by the Honourable Chief Judge in Sapele during his visit to the Correctional Centre, Sapele.”

The statement noted that the chief judge confined himself strictly to the comprehensive list of inmates eligible for amnesty in 2020 approved and sent from Abuja.

It stressed that the state chief judge had no jurisdiction to release convicted inmates on his own volition, unless such inmates were granted amnesty/pardon by the presidency or executive arm of the government, as the case may be.

It described the purported protest of the convicted inmates as totally misguided, most unfortunate and product of abject and embarrassing ignorance, pointing out that convicted inmate had no right to freedom.

The said that such right had been extinguished by operation of law at the time of conviction and sentence if not reversed by an appellate court unless the convict  receives a pardon from the President or Governor, as the case may be, in exercise of his prerogative of mercy.

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